Games of Thrones: A Success Story

Game of Thrones
by Eleanor Mees
Class of 2015

The popularity of Game of Thrones has increased, especially as the show heads into its fifth season. While a superficial glance may reveal the scandalously clad women as the major draw for viewers, a secondary look would point to the plot as the main attraction.

What HBO and creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in association with George R.R. Martin have done so well is making the plot relevant to modern day society. Jon Snow has never checked his Twitter feed; Joffrey his Instagram. Yet this long and complicated tale is adored by millions. The writers have ingeniously incorporated universal themes into the narrative. Love and loss, cheating and scandal regularly rear their heads as the characters travel throughout Westeros in search for the One True King (or Queen!!). What sets it apart from any other soap opera is the detail. Born from Martin’s mind, enhanced by HBO’s writing team and directors, Game of Thrones is the best television show currently running.

While it is difficult for many viewers to remember the minor characters, they stand as a testament to the effort put forth by the writers to make this a successful narrative. Each character serves a purpose, whether they aid in plot continuity or present a glitch in a character’s plan. Game of Thrones has been continuously mocked for their excessive number of characters; quizzes on Buzzfeed beg viewers to try their luck at remembering the most obscure names (Gendry? Irri? ). After watching all four seasons twice, a warning to all who binge watch; if you do not watch carefully, it is easy to let character’s back stories slip through your fingers. These characters, whom seem insignificant in the first season become the stars of the fourth; there is a high turnover of power in Westeros.

The second time, armed with a better understanding of the plot, I was able to pick up on the special cinematographic touches. For example, when Bronn is in a pub, he sings the Lannister’s song with soldiers. But that is not the only time the song has been played. When the scenes shift towards the Lannister’s, their song can be heard in the background. These details are not applied in one episode and forgotten the next; throughout all five seasons, the most seemingly insignificant plot points are resurrected.

Editor’s note: The following contains what could be considered spoilers by someone who has not seen previous seasons of the show

After Daenerys Targaryen is given away to Khal Drogo, leader of the Dothraki tribe, she is forced to learn Dothraki in order to speak to her new husband. Although Martin had accounted for this language in his novels, linguist David Peterson actually created over 3,400 words in Dothraki, making it a full language. Likewise, Peterson created High Valyrian (a language similar to the modern usage of Latin), expanding upon George R.R. Martin’s work. Martin has expressed that he is not extremely interested in the formation of these languages; however, the commitment by the writers of the show to create entire languages proves their dedication to the narrative.

The creators and writers have worked to form a historical commentary. The Seven Kingdoms, the famous “All men must die” slogan, Daenerys Targaryen’s conquests of foreign lands, the Wall’s separation of land all have legitimate historical backing. The seven Kingdoms, most easily translates to the seven continents upon which all men live; “All men must die” signifies the stark reality that every human must, and will face death at some point in their lives (justifying the constant beheadings, stabbings, and dismemberment).

Daenerys, a white female of noble birth has spent the entirety of the show conquering foreign lands located in deserts that boast large pyramids as castles. Colonization anyone?

Jon Snow’s time at the Wall features attacks from the Wildlings. Hundreds of years ago in the North, a large wall was constructed to protect the Seven Kingdoms from the “dangers beyond the Wall”. After spending weeks with the Wildlings, Snow comes to the conclusion that the only difference between himself and the Wildings is the side of the Wall that they were on when it was built. He makes numerous attempts (in the face of bold opposition) to bond the Wildlings and the Night’s Watch, insisting that the Wildlings deserve the support of the Watchers of the Wall.
The elected leader of the Wildlings is Mance Rayder, famous for uniting clans that had battled each other for hundreds of years, and bringing them under a centralized power. Rayder boasts similarities to the League of the Iroquois; a Native American coalition with democratically elected representatives to deal with issues that affected all of the tribes, which was mostly destroyed by the Europeans. Snow’s conclusion that the Wall is an arbitrary divider could be applied to the American colonies; the Atlantic dividing the two cultures provided the means for separation; European Colonists an air of superiority, refusing to co-exist with the Indigenous tribes

The episode that aired on May 3rd, “The Sons of the Harpy” deals with a similar social commentary. Following Cersei Lannister’s pledge to religiously purify the Capital, the “Faith Militant” are reassembled, purging all those deemed to be unholy. Our history has provided us with a plethora of examples upon which to compare this act to, most notably, the Crusades. This is a gruesome episode, and by making the audience noticeably uncomfortable, it points to a very serious and legitimate mark in the world’s history.

To campaign for the beginning of the fifth season, Peter Dinklage was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart said “that it is hard to keep [Game of Thrones] from becoming parody”. Dinklage agreed that while there have been many bad versions of GOT-like shows, that HBO has strived to produce its very best series. Game of Thrones has been genuine from the very beginning, never failing to take a risk, and always delivering quality television.

Eleanor Mees is a student in Advanced Placement English Language and Composition